Weaving Wonderment

I knew it was only a matter of time before I succumbed to yet another fiber art adventure. Mae and I bought a Zoom Loom today to give it a go. We both found it fun, quick and easy… And sure to become a new addiction. Mae’s planning to make a blanket for her Pixie doll:



And I wonder what I should do with my first handspun square?



The possibilities are endless…

Christmas : Part Three : The Finale

We celebrated our final Christmas last weekend, and I’m happy to report that, despite my kids and I being wiped out with the Flu this month, I was able to complete my knitting project presents for my nephews. One of them requested an “Elephant Man.” I’m sure the images that entered my mind upon hearing this request were quite different from his 7-year old one, so after doing some research, this was the winning pattern from Emily Ivey. It looked so cuddly, I had to knit it in baby alpaca to make it even cuddlier.

e-is-for-elephant-knitted

I think my nephew was satisfied with his elephant “man”. He jumped up and down with joy upon opening it and quickly commenced wrestling with it on the floor. Ah sigh… boys. I always try to doubly reinforce ALL the seams on their toys.

knitted-elephant

My other nephew’s present was quite an adventure. A few months ago, I tried to get him to give me a hint about what he’d like me to make for him, and the only thing I could get out of him was that he really liked a hand-spun shawl I had made for my Mom. I thought that might be a bit too womanly for a little boy, but something like a sweater he would quickly grow out of, so I thought a good compromise might be a throw blanket. I used all of the rest of the brown lamb’s fleece I was given, plus another black fleece the same family sent to me already cleaned and carded, with the goal of creating the softest, warmest throw blanket possible. First, I used my hand cards to make rolags from the fleece. I needed about 1 per yard since I spun them very thickly… so I made about 600 of these babies (I tried not to count as I was making them… too overwhelming.)

rolags-hand-carded

I then spun these woolen (long-draw). Here’s a nice instructional video I found for both of these carding and spinning techniques. But I spun mine into much bigger singles than the video shows. I tried very hard to resist smoothing out the “fuzzy” parts, as Mae calls them. I then plied the 2 colors together to get a super-bulky weight yarn. I ended up with 12 50-yard skeins.

hands-spun-super-bulky-yarn-hand

After washing, thwacking, and drying:

handspun-super-bulky-yarn-hanging

My Christmas presents from my husband and sister-in-law came in quite handy: an umbrella swift and ball winder!

swift-ball-winder

Together they make perfect center-pull “cakes” so much more quickly and expertly than I could by hand. These looked like chocolate… almost good enough to eat!

hand-spun-super-bulky-yarn

I then used this free pattern from Drops for the knitted blanket, and on Size 19 (!) needles, the knitting was definitely the quickest part of the whole process.

size-19-knitting-needles

Can’t get enough of those cables! I should also mention that Mae had fun helping me with some of the carding and knitting. She’s becoming almost as obsessed with fiber arts as I am! Here’s the finished blanket:

super-bulky-hand-spun-knit-blanket

I wasn’t able to make it quite as long as the pattern specified due to running out of wool (which I can hardly believe happened), but I think the length turned out perfectly for him to wrap up in and walk around. He wondered if he could use a clip to hold it in place. I guess he really did want a shawl! I also washed it with a naturally scented lavender-lime dish soap using the same method that I used to wash the fleece originally (soaking it in hot water in my top-loading washing machine) and then I added a tsp of lavender oil to the rinse water, and one of his first comments was that it smelled very good. Such a cutie!

hand-spun-knitted-throw

It’s so lofty and thick that it creates almost instant warmth, and feels like cuddling with a lamb (or two!). My kids and my cats (and I) can’t wait for the spring shearing so I can make another one for them. I continue to feel so blessed to know this sweet family and their generosity with their gorgeous wool!

Lupo the Lamb

My first ever “straight-from-the-lamb” project is done! I’m pretty happy with how it turned out:

lalylala lupo the lamb crochet doll handspun

Seems a little silly that I did all that wool processing only to turn it back into a lamb. 😉 I ran out of white yarn toward the end, and had to make some more… learning from that process that I overplied the first batch. The second was much softer and lighter. The brown wool seemed easier and more consistent to spin over all. Not quite as fine, but still very soft, and I adore the color variations, with bits of red and grey highlights. And since my hand-spinning is nowhere near as consistent in weight as commercial yarn, he’s not completely symmetrical, ie. the arms and feet are slightly different sizes. But I think that lends him a bit of extra hand-made charm (I think). I also stuffed him with the wool (each color matching) which helped with show-through issues, and he’s delightfully huggable as a result.

lalylala lupo the lamb crochet doll handspun

lalylala lupo the lamb crochet doll handspun

I’m definitely in love with Lalylala designs even more now. It took longer than other crochet animals I’ve made, with its smaller, tighter gauge, but that also gives it a smoother look, and there are little subtle touches that made the pattern very special, especially the shaping of the hands and feet.

He also turned out a little bigger than the pattern’s specified 10″. He’s around 14″, since my yarn was a little heavier than sock weight. I also used a bigger hook (2.5mm), and bigger eyes (9mm instead of 6mm).

The kids and I really want to keep him, but I’m going to send him back “home” as a thank you to the people who gave me the fleeces. I’ll probably have to make another one to live with us eventually. Lord knows I have enough wool left over. 🙂 But first I need to take a break from crochet. I’m dying to knit something, and also to see how this wool spins up woolen, and into something wearable. Stay tuned…

fleece processing part 2 : the final spin cycle

Now that my beautiful clean lamb fleeces are nice and dry (only took a couple of days) I’m starting to comb and spin them into yarn. Here is my current high tech method: A cheap dog comb purchased at my local supermarket. I’ve been separating the locks, then holding one end while I comb out the other with the wider tines, then turning it around to comb the other end, then repeating with the smaller tines, until all the VM has been combed out and the locks are nice and fluffy and straight and tangle-free.

combing romney lamb locks

brown-romney-lamb-fleece-combing

And here are my first mini test skeins, spun worsted, somewhere between DK and Worsted weight (kind of my default spin):

romney-lamb-handspun-yarn

They are very light and lofty and soft and springy, even spun worsted. I love the color variation in the brown one from what I assume are sun-bleached ends:

brown-hand-spun-romney-lamb-yarn

The white one seems to be finer and a little softer:

white-romney-lamb-handspun-yarn

And here is the beginning of my first little project with these yarns. They are very enjoyable to crochet, even with a tight gauge. Of course I had to turn the lamb fleece back into a lamb:

crochet-lamb-foot

I’ve been looking for an excuse to make one of these adorable lalylala dolls: http://www.lalylala.com/?port=crochet-pattern-lupo-the-lamb and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to play with these two fleeces together.

LUPO_web-01a-590x590

 

 

wet, wild and wooly

I now completely understand why natural fiber yarns cost so much. It takes SO much time and energy just to process the fiber! I spent almost ALL my spare time this weekend just WASHING my two romney lamb fleeces I was so generously given. I used this method here: http://www.tengoodsheep.com/tutorial.html and it worked like a charm. I had to do it in my laundry room instead of outside, since it’s quite cold and wet here now. (Why didn’t I do it this summer? Oh yeah… Project Chicken Integration. 🙂 ) And I used lavender oil instead of the recommended patchouli or clove in the rinse cycle, since I prefer the smell. But, WOW, for someone who puts off doing laundry until her kids start complaining that they have no clean underwear, 6 huge buckets of cold water soaking and 6 hot water washes and rinses is a lot. I did manage to finish my kids’ laundry at the same time, much to their delight. Spending all that time in the laundry room doing unnecessary washing started to make me feel guilty about it. 😉

While the kids are now happily (hah!) folding their mountains of clean clothes, my beautiful lamb fleeces are happily drying on racks (surprisingly quickly after their spin cycles), dreaming fluffy dreams of being spun into yarn and turned into something cuddly. Here’s the white one (SO MUCH WHITER!):

white-romny-lamb-fleece2

And here’s the dark brown (boy, those guinea pig cages have really come in handy… guinea homes, chick brooders, and now wool processors!):

brown-romney-lamb-fleeces

It actually looks kind of gross in this photo, but the individual locks are gorgeous… and SO soft. Not scratchy at all when I rub them against my chin (my favorite test for wearable fiber).

But even with all that washing, there is still a lot vegetable matter hanging out in it. These lambs must have been rolling down hills together, or something.

romney-lamb-fleece

romney-lamb-fleece-brown

A question for those of you who have processed fiber… is it normal to have SO much embedded VM after washing? It seems like it really wants to cling to the wool, and every once in a while I even find it in commercial yarns. It’s going to be a painstaking process to card or comb it all out, that’s for sure. But I’m not really complaining. It’s quite enjoyable sinking my hands into all this lovely softness any way I can… especially now that it’s so clean and fragrant! And the results are going to be very much worth the effort:

romney-lamb-locks

So soft and lovely. And just look at that staple length! It’s going to practically spin itself.

– – –

OH! And check out the new sleeping arrangements in the chicken house… just in time for the cold, wet weather and Gloria to go into her annual feather-dumping molt. This is not a good pic, but I can only catch them all up there when it’s dark:

chickens-roosting

All three girls are quite inseparable now… my dream of backyard harmony has come true at last! The only thing that would make it more perfect is to start getting eggs again. Ah sigh… but poor Gloria.. she looks so much skinnier right now, and pretty silly with only one tail feather left:

gloria-tail-feather

But most definitely less lonely…

gloria-tail-feather3

Soothing Surprise

After my rough week losing Cleo, I feel like I won the lottery today! Brace yourself for an interesting family connection: My Aunt called last week to tell me that my cousin’s wife’s sister has a small flock of sheep, and doesn’t know what to do with the fleeces. My Aunt told her about my spinning, and she offered to GIVE them to me! So today I received my first “sample” in the mail: 2 gorgeous Romney lamb fleeces, one white and one black (9 lbs. of wool!).

black and white romney lamb fleeces

I was so excited, I couldn’t even wait to wash them… I had to spin up a couple of locks “in the grease”. I just carded them up and spun them with a woolen long draw, which was crazy easy, since the staple is so long. The lanolin on the wool probably helped too, and now my hands feel SO soft. Here’s my first little test skein. It’s so soft and light and dreamy!

romney lamb handspun woolen yarn

Now I’m going to do more experimenting with processing and spinning techniques for this. First I’m washing some of it in just cold water to make it a little cleaner, but keep the grease, and some in soapy hot water to remove the grease… I wonder which I’ll like working with better? Then I think I’ll try combing some and spinning it worsted, as well as more carded woolen.

Then I really need to make something(s) amazing with all this loveliness! Starting with something special for the giver. 😉

 

About a Doll, a Baby, and a Naughty Kitty

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been a bit lacking in my blogging mojo lately… but I HAVE been saving up some photos of some finished projects that I’ve had fun making during the last couple of months:

1. About a Doll.
For my niece’s Pixie Doll, I made a few accessories: a combination flannel/knitted nightgown, a crocheted ballet tutu, a flower crown (I made a big version for her as well) and a pet bunny.

knitted doll accessories

I probably should have shared this bunny pattern before Easter, because I think it’s way too cute…

knitted bunny

2. About a Baby.
I finally got the chance to make something for a baby again! I was excited to be invited to my Cousin’s baby shower… and even more excited that he is expecting a girl, because I’ve wanted to make this sweet dress ever since I bought this book, Easy Baby Knits by Claire Montgomerie. I love this book so much… I’ve made many of the items in here, but not this one yet. It was a joy to knit in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran.

knitted baby dress

Her nursery theme has elephants in it, so of course I had to make her a crocheted baby elephant as well. This pattern was very quick and easy… relatively.

crochet baby elephant

3. About a Naughty Kitty.
From the very first moment we brought our kittens home, I knew that under NO circumstances could I ever let them play with yarn, because then it would be GAME OVER for my knitting. And they’ve actually done admirably well with leaving it alone. Every once in awhile they will bat at a strand as I’m knitting, and have even bit through it a time or two… but I always quickly break up the game, and I’ve had very little issues. However, ever since I started spinning and bringing home fiber, it’s been a different story. I’m not really sure why… I think it started when Butterfly got her paws on a roving braid… cashmere mix of course, (she has good taste) and it responded a bit like one of their cat toys, so she started dragging it around. It could also be that raw fiber is SO soft, and they are drawn to anything soft and warm like a magnet. Whatever the cause, the result is that now I can’t leave ANY fiber out EVER, or both cats (but especially Butterfly) will be tearing into it. And I mean literally TEARING. I started keeping it in ziplock bags, but they quickly figured out how to tear those open and it’s become part of the game. I then got a big tupperware box to keep it in, but Butterfly figured out how to push open the edge enough to get her claws in and pull it out. So now it has to be in the laundry room… the only room they aren’t allowed in… unless I am currently spinning it. Even then, I can’t step out of the room for even a minute or they will be all over it. So annoying!!! At least they can’t completely destroy it… usually nothing a little carding can’t fix. Here is the bandit (or should I say vandal), caught in the act:

naughty kitty

This is some lovely kid mohair. She’s almost as obsessed with it as I am! If I can keep her out of the fiber long enough to share about my latest spinning experiments, I plan to post about that next. I’ve been doing some fun things with silk… blending it and plying it with woolen spun singles of other fibers, and I’m really enjoying working with it. Worms really don’t get enough respect!

new spinning territory

I’ve ventured into new spinning territory on 2 recent projects. The first was a challenge to myself to spin it as finely as I could, for my weaving friend who also likes to dye her own yarn. I used superwash merino and I even spun it traditionally worsted… no predrafting… using a forward short draw drafting method. The result was about 250 yards of 2-ply yarn, somewhere between lace and fingering weight. I’m quite proud of it, but it felt like it took forever. I stretched out the process over a couple of weeks, because my fingers would get quickly tired of holding back such thin singles.

handspun fingering superwash merino yarn

As soon as I got it off the wheel, I moved right into a treat for myself that I’ve been very impatient to start spinning… some hand-painted Australian merino from Woolgatherings that my sweet Papa gave me for Christmas. He’s been reading my blog, so he knew EXACTLY what I would like. 😉 I don’t know if it’s because I was more excited about the fiber, or if it was more interesting to spin because I couldn’t wait to see how the colors turned out, or if it’s because I’m realizing that I just enjoy spinning thicker yarn more, but this took me less than two days. I decided to leave it as single-ply, another first, so that also cut the time in half, and I spun it mostly with a short backward draw. I felted it a bit on purpose during washing it, since I heard that will help give singles more strength. The result was about 210 yards of DK/Worsted weight, which I can’t wait to knit into these Crofton cuffs for myself. I like the version with the seed stitch tops, and I’m excited to see how they will stripe.

single-handspun-austalian-merino

Now, for a little small talk about the weather: We were the lucky recipients of a layer of freezing rain on top of our 5 inches of snow last night, and it’s like an ice-skating rink out there. No snow play for the kids today I’m afraid. THEY are telling us it will start to melt this afternoon, and then we’ll have constant rain in our foreseeable future… so we are getting very nervous about flooding. But at least the chickens will be happy to come out of hibernation. They’ve got to be getting stir crazy up there in their coop. But they are still laying eggs for us, so I guess they can’t be too miserable. Sweet little chooks.

frozen-snow

Secret Christmas Projects Revealed

Happy New Year!!! For all of you who thought my whole crafting world revolves around spinning yarn right now… well… you’re not completely wrong, but I have been actually making some things out of some of that yarn as well, so it’s time to share with you the Christmas presents I’ve been working on:

First, here is what the handspun “imperfect” suri baby alpaca yarn turned into: an infinity scarf for my lovely bestest friend since elementary school. I used a free pattern from Ravelry, but I can’t find the link anymore, so here are the basics:

size 13 (US) circular needles w/40″ cable
CO 108 stitches, join in the round, add a stitch marker
odd rows: *YO, k2tog* repeat to the end of that round
even rows: knit to the end of the round
the pattern calls for 200 yards bulky weight yarn, which will give you about 35 rows but I only had about 150 yards, and I got 25 rows. So I think you can just keep going to make it as wide as you want…. just make sure you have enough yarn leftover to bind off.
Bind off VERY loosely. I did *k2tog through the back loops, slip the right needle stitch back to the left needle*, repeat to the end.

It was a very quick, fun knitting project, and I think it looks gorgeous on her (or maybe it’s her that makes it look gorgeous?):

handspun suri baby alpaca infinity scarf

Next, another crochet pokemon character, Umbreon and Ultraball (pattern adapted from this one) for my niece who loves all things Pokemon as much as my kids. I’m especially proud of these because I handspun all of the yarn out of merino, dyed the yellow and red wool myself with food colors (not the black… I had an Anne of Green Gables moment trying to dye black… it turned out green!), and needle-felted the eyes and yellow details… a new experience for me… so fun and easy! And I love how it makes the detailing look like it was “painted” on with thick fuzzy paint. Lola decided to photo bomb this one:

crochet-pokemon-umbreon-ultraball

And finally, here is my third Pixie doll I’ve made for another of my nieces… who has been coveting her sister’s. I made her hair a bit more layered, and used “shimmery” Suncatcher green eyes. She has a pink leotard peeking out under her dress, so she can dance a ballet at a moment’s notice!

knitted-pixie-doll-green-eyes

And now back to my current spinning endeavors: I’m learning to spin long-draw woolen yarn! After my experiment with “messy” spinning on the baby suri alpaca, I wanted to explore the best method for the softest, lightest yarn possible, in order to bring out the best of this 50/50 superfine merino and angora handpainted roving that I bought from The Fiber Imp on Etsy. My Sweet Prince gave me some hand carders for Christmas, so I’ve been learning to make rolags, which are really the only way to achieve a true woolen long-draw. I’m definitely still a beginner, but I’m finding it SO fun, and very quick to spin this way. And the results are so soft and light and airy. Since I’m learning to embrace the whole imperfect process of spinning, I’m feeling much braver, and having a lot more fun! Here are my first attempts. Maybe I should treat myself to my own infinity scarf now?

handspun woolen long draw merino and angora yarn

peach melba australian merino

This has been a very busy month, so I haven’t really had time to blog… and I also haven’t wanted to give up any of my spare crafting time. I have some secret Christmas projects going, but I just had to take a tiny bit of time to post about this amazing fiber from Woolgatherings that I am spinning at the moment. I am absolutely in love with the hand-painted colorway, and it’s very surprising to me, since I’m not usually an orange / yellow person, but I really find this combination deliciously mouthwatering. It reminds me of something like a peach melba, and I’m having a hard time not putting it in my mouth… I feel like a toddler! Plus, the fiber is Australian Merino, at 15.5 microns, it’s even softer than superfine merino. It feels like velvet, and I’m very glad I didn’t try dyeing it myself… I’m sure I would have felted the whole batch in a heartbeat.

woolgatherings hand-painted australian merino being handspun

Something about the colors just make my heart happy, like a gorgeous sunrise or sunset, and it’s been brightening my dark, cold, December days just to spin it! Maybe it also helps that it’s from Australia… where it is Summer now… as well as reminding me of the flower arrangements at my sister-in-law’s wedding this summer. As my mother-in-law was arranging them, and my other sister-in-law was putting the finishing touches on her bouquet, the beauty of it all almost brought tears to my eyes.

Here it is as a single.

woolgatherings hand painted hand-spun single

I had a hard time deciding whether to leave it single, try to keep the colors together when plying, or to mix up the colors as much as possible as a 2-ply. I decided on the last option… with a little help from the kids: “mix it up!” And Mae helped spin some of it, as well as a ply quite a bit of it. So here’s our Australian merino peach melba velvet tiger! What should it turn into next?

 woolgatherings hand-painted australian merino handspun 2-ply.